‘The Adjustment Bureau’ – Fate vs. Free Will
Have you seen the Adjustment Bureau?
The Adjustment Bureau is a science-fiction, romance hybrid film featuring Matt Damon as David Norris, an aspiring politician aiming for the senator seat of New York who meets a mysterious ballet dancer on the night of his defeat. This brief encounter was orchestrated by agents from the Adjustment Bureau, a Bureau that constantly controls the fate of people’s lives. These agents intervene to guide people in the path they are intended to follow. Unfortunately things don’t go as planned. Through this story, the film touches on the theme between free will and predestination.
Do we have have complete free will or are things predetermined?
First time director George Nolfi tackles this interesting topic of free will versus fate with this adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story “The Adjustment Bureau.” George Nolfi is best known as the screenwriter of “Oceans Twelve” and “The Bourne Ultimatum”. In an effort to promote discussion over this topic of free will (and of course promote the film), there has been heavy national outreach to colleges and Christian churches.
Director George Nolfi Speaks!
Below are excerpts from an interview with the director at “Big Hollywood.” It gives us a nice window into this theme of free will versus predestination through the eyes of the director:
BIG HOLLYWOOD: How were you drawn to this subject matter? Were you just a fan of Philip K. Dick, or was there a spiritual element?
GEORGE NOLFI: I’ve long been fascinated with the question of how much we control our own destiny or how much we’re controlled by larger forces. When I think of that question it’s not explicitly theological, though I think that’s one of the answers. I studied philosophy in grad school and it intertwines with theology. Is it social forces, like what family you’re born into, or God’s plan for you that shapes your life most? We’re set on a path by something much bigger than ourselves, and yet we also know we have choices and that they matter.
BH: Are you spiritual or religious yourself, and if so, how did that tie into the project, and if not, how did you find a grasp on this and did you realize this would resonate with Christian audiences in addition to secular ones?
GN: I’ve not talked about my personal views because of this reason: I want the movie to be viewed by people whether religious or not or whatever religion they are. I want them to engage with the central question bringing their faith and views and grappling to the table. So when they leave, the question of how much of your life is handled by outside forces and how much by you is key, and that has been around since the ancient Greeks. I just want to have people have a great time at the movies in a romantic thriller with a sci-fi tinge to it all, leaving with their own questions brought to the table.
As a kid I’ve been interested in this issue. I studied it in college and graduate school, and studied various ways people grapple with that. My own family background dealt with it as well. I was also fascinated with the problem of evil in theology and if there’s a higher power that’s all powerful, benevolent and all knowing, then why do bad things happen to good people?
I think that for religious people period, but certainly Christian audiences, it is a part of their daily life to engage in discussions of why are we here. I don’t think that necessarily people who are completely secular deal with those issues, but I think it’s almost impossible to be a religious person without struggling with this issue. It’s ultimately a movie about a character going through character changes. It’s a thriller, a sci-fi tinged one, and hopefully you’re on that ride. But it does have these issues, and i thought it would have extra interest to those who struggle with it on a daily basis.
Free Will vs. Fate
Full disclosure here. I have not seen this movie. I don’t have any plans on seeing this movie. The science fiction aspect draws me, but the romance part does not. But I did want to note it here because I am curious what kind of impression people will walk away with.
- For those of you who have seen the movie, what impression do you leave with?
- Is the movie objective or do you walk out feeling one way or another?
- Do you personally believe life is completely “free” or pre-determined?
- If so, why? Do you believe just because you feel it’s true or do you have a good logical argument?